Ancient Egyptian Afterlife: The Opening of the Mouth Ceremony

Arkane Curiosities

The ancient Egyptians left behind an awe-inspiring legacy of culture, architecture, and beliefs. The ancient Egyptians also held a particularly fascinating and complex view of the afterlife. The concept of a double soul and the opening the mouth ceremony were only the start to a long journey in the ancient Egyptian afterlife.

Ka and Ba: The Dual Essence of the Soul

Central to the Egyptian concept of the afterlife were the ka and ba. These two aspects represented the dual essence of an individual’s soul. The ka was the life force or spiritual double, residing within the physical body during life and continuing to exist after death. It required sustenance in the form of offerings to remain content and connected to the earthly realm.

On the other hand, the ba was the individual’s personality, often depicted as a bird with a human head. After death, the ba would separate from the body to roam freely in the spirit world, visiting loved ones and sacred places. However, it needed to return to the tomb periodically to reunite with the ka and sustain its existence.

Opening the Mouth

The “Opening of the Mouth” ceremony aimed to revitalize the deceased’s senses, allowing the mummy to see, hear, smell, eat, and breathe again in the realm of the dead. Essentially, this would allow the ka, still residing in the body, to accept and enjoy any offerings presented to it. 

Key Elements of the Ceremony

Touching the Mouth: The priest touched the mouth and eyes of the mummy with a special forked tool. This gesture symbolized the restoration of the mummy’s senses, allowing them to speak and see again.

Incantations and Spells: During the ceremony, priests would recite spells and incantations to invoke the help of various gods and deities. These spells were believed to activate the powers of the objects used in the ritual and ensure the successful transition of the deceased into the afterlife.

Offerings: Replicas of milk (activated with the incantations) were presented to the mummy. This represented the baby’s first nourishment. There were also replicas for salt water (used for cleansing) and fresh water. These offerings were meant to sustain the deceased in the afterlife and provide them with the necessities for eternity.

Reborn: The idea that the body was “reborn” into the afterlife was strong. Egyptians used a forked blade (called a pesesh-kef) to touch the mummy’s mouth. This was the same tool used to sever the umbilical cord when this person was born.

The Opening of the Mouth ceremony aimed to reanimate the senses of the deceased and ensure their successful transition into the afterlife. By performing this ceremony, the ancient Egyptians believed that the mummy would be fully prepared to undertake the journey to the realm of the dead, where they could enjoy eternal life in the presence of the gods. 

Tim Kane

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